When it comes to cooking, how much is your time really worth?

How much is your time worth, if you had to put a price on it?

I guess anyone who has a job has already done that: whether you work for minimum wage every Saturday, or you trade your Monday to Friday in for however many thousands per annum, you've already put worked out what you'll accept to swap your free time for cold, hard cash.

You've done the accounting for your working week, but what about your leisure time?

It's something that I was thinking about the other day, when I was rushing home to study. I needed lunch, but to hop to the supermarket to pick up something quick to eat. Picking up something readymade from the supermarket would save me the time it would take to cook a proper meal, but cost me a few quid. (I must be the only person who doesn't have a Tesco Metro or a Sainsbury's Local in spitting distance. I might as well live on Jupiter in London terms.)

If I make food at home, I save myself money, but I lose the time. How much do I value my time at, when money's a bit on the tight side?

Turns out I value the cash more, even if it was only the cost of a tin of soup and a loaf of bread. I went home, scratched my head, and stared into the fridge for inspiration.

I found the bottom of a packet of quinoa, and a few spoons of harissa sauce, that looks like they'd do well together. There's always some lentils in my cupboards, and they make a quick and easy salad with mustard and rosemary dressing. There's always some carrots in the fridge too, and when I run out of ideas of what to do with them, I just make coronation carrots - grated carrots in a curry mayonnaise with spring onions and sultanas. With the green veggies that were languishing in the crisper, a bit of garlic and soy sauce turns them into a great side.

I reckon it must have taken me about half an hour to make all that. If we assume that lunch would have cost me £3 or more, and I was willing to work for hour an hour to save that, does that sound like a fair trade off? Or does it sound like being penny-wise and pound-foolish?

I'm calling it as the second. Yep, I spent half an hour, but I made more than just the plate up there - I made enough for four lunches and fed myself for an entire week. I saved myself not only £15 of lunches, but I saved myself more trips to the supermarket. I just had to reach into the fridge to make myself something healthy and hearty.

Sure, I spent half hour an hour cooking it, but the cash I saved - and, it turns out, the time I saved - were more than worth the investment.

Some days, the equation works out differently. When I was coming home after the delightful combination of a terrible exam and a fairly awful migraine, Mr FtVs wisely called for a takeaway. I didn't have the energy to cook, and there's a curry house near us that makes a storming chana masala. That day, I was more than willing to swap a few quid for not cooking.

But if I'm going to trade in cash for time, I'm going to try and squeeze every bit out of my investment. After we'd finished gorging ourself on rogan josh, there was half a bowl left and a couple of fistfuls of roti. The next day, I bulked out what was left with some extra greens and mushrooms, and got myself a whole other meal out of it. That takeaway may have cost £15, but enjoying it again the next day? That was priceless.


  1. I think in the long term its about being economical. I don't earn a lot and have to be mindful of that, especially as it costs me £40 in travel to and fro work every week. Yes, I 'd rather be sitting on my backside watching nordic noir or in the garden pottering, but its never about being tight, but thrifty. So I make lunches and evening meals at home as much as I can, tend to succeed 4/5 working days. Those pounds saved on shop bought lunches add up, when I eat out occasionally I tell myself its a treat. You may be surprised to note that we never do take-away, okay rarely and I mean rarely when the MIL comes to see us or if I have nephews and nieces over and only a pizza will do, but its really rare.

  2. My reasoning on spending is not always very, well, reasonable. I have a thing about buses and tubes and see both as a waste of money in London where you can walk about so easily, but somehow accept the (enormous) sum I spent on my season rail ticket because it's a bit unavoidable if I want to get to work. I have justified a daily cup of coffee for the train ride in, but take issue with buying snack bars from single serve places knowing I can get a pack for nearly the same price in the supermarket. Buying water infuriates me and eating out seems a waste most of the time, but I'm a sucker for sandwich deals even though the sandwiches aren't usually that nice (but you get a drink and snack too!). In WholeFoods I just lose all reason and anything goes. :-)

    I think you made the right decision with your cooking / not cooking moments here and am glad you enjoyed the respective meals!

    Thanks so much for your comment on my last post too. I'll still be dropping in but am enjoying the reduced pressure of not getting words organised in a post of my own, for now anyway - I am sure I will be back more consistently at some point.

  3. So many choices and so little time! I don't always make the right decisions but I think I should incorporate coronation carrot into my rotation of salads (which is usually coleslaw). I think there are lots of reasons to make your own food - to actually get up and get active, to save packaging, to have a bit of pride in your food and usually it is better food (but I confess not always). Your lunch sounds lovely and frugal, and curry leftovers are the best

  4. It only took you a half hour to make all that! I would consider that an excellent use of your time. :-)

  5. This is a very interesting question. Unfortunately I'm someone who really dislikes cooking, and I'm also someone who wants to spend all her time being productive in some way (cooking is not included in productive activities) and so more often than not I will be spending money over time, to get food. However, the way you made food for several days seems much better - and the food also looks a lot nicer and is probably healthier. So really, I should start trying to do what you're doing!


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